The Role of Sales Leaders in Crisis Planning

By LaDonna Gerhart, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Remington, and a member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

July 5, 2018

The ongoing eruption of the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island — one of the most popular tourism destinations in the United States — has reminded us of the need for everyone in the hospitality business to play a role in crisis planning. On a recent call for HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board, I hosted a conversation about how sales leaders should be involved in that process, based in part on my company’s experience owning hotels in Houston and Florida that were affected by last year’s brutal Atlantic hurricane season.

Here are some takeaways we shared during the call:

1. Plan to keep doing business. This became clear to our team when our resort properties in Key West suffered major business interruptions in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma last September. Those hotels had a lot of weddings on the books, and we realized that we needed to adjust and implement our standard operating procedures (SOPs) related to what clients our sales team needed to contact in the event of a crisis, when, how often, what they should say, and so on.

That also means making sure your sales professionals have what they need to keep working — especially when a hotel is knocked out of commission. “We get laptops for all our teams and make sure that a portion of their cellphone bill is paid by us,” said one Sales Advisory Board member whose Gulf Coast property was flooded by Hurricane Katrina. “Our director of sales actually had the hotel number transferred to her cellphone. That was one of the roles that she took during the evacuation process.”

2. Think about your messaging. Advisory board members agreed that ensuring prompt and regular communication with clients is a key part of crisis planning. A few members recommended using social media for that — and one stressed the importance of “handling it with heart, because there are so many emotions, and the safety of your employees and guests is really top of mind.”

Another board member with properties in Hawaii — one in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that has been closed, with others on other islands nowhere near Kilauea — noted that sales teams can provide valuable education to clients during a crisis. “I went out one morning to Waikiki Beach [on the island of Oahu, 200 miles from the Big Island] and did Facebook Live on my personal page,” the member said, “and said something a little sarcastic— ‘I’m dodging volcanic boulders and inhaling ash down the street from my office’ — when of course it’s just people lying on the beach and having a great time. I think that was important because it’s real-time.”

3. Involve everyone. Just like on an average workday, sales is everyone’s job — in a crisis, no one is on the sidelines. “One of the things I took away from my last emergency-planning course,” a Sales Advisory Board member said, “was prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery — how to do each of those steps, and then implement them into the team culture so that when things happen, whether it’s a fire or a tsunami, your team actually understands what needs to be done, who to communicate with, and how to keep clients and guests safe.”

Insight Type: Articles